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Trout Unlimited Asks Nation’s Highest Court to Hear Mountaintop Removal Lawsuit
U.S. Supreme Court should review West Virginia coal mining waste disposal case
Arlington, Va. – Trout Unlimited (TU), along with several other groups filed a petition yesterday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a mountaintop removal mining case.
The groups requested that the court review a recent court decision that allows coal companies to dump mining waste directly into streams without following basic requirements of the Clean Water Act.
“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court fully considers the devastating practice of erasing headwater streams by filling them with mining waste, and orders this practice to cease,” said Bryan Moore, TU’s Vice President of Volunteer Operations and Watersheds. “Annihilation of these streams, which are the lifeblood of our rivers, can no longer be accepted as merely the cost of doing business. The 1,200 miles of streams that have been destroyed in Appalachia can never be replaced,” Moore continued.
In March 2007, a district court found that four mountaintop removal permits approved by the Army Corps of Engineers violated the Clean Water Act by authorizing the permits to fill 23 valleys and 13 miles of mountain streams in southern West Virginia without first performing even the most basic, legally required assessment of the harm that would occur when the streams are buried forever. But in February 2009, a panel of judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling, and ruled 2 to 1 in favor of the Corps of Engineers.
On August 28, Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy&the Environment filed a petition challenging the Fourth Circuit ruling on behalf of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Coal River Mountain Watch. The briefs filed Monday by Trout Unlimited, the West Virginia Council of Churches and several scientists support the petition for review.
In its brief, TU wrote, “The 40 million anglers in the United States spend $45 billion a year on their sport—significantly more than the revenues of all of the major professional sports leagues in the U.S. combined. Tens of thousands of jobs in Appalachia alone depend upon the fishing industry. Related activities—hunting and wildlife watching—account for annual expenditures of $286 million and $213 million in West Virginia .”
“Mountaintop removal has destroyed a huge amount of headwater habitat, much of it likely wild brook trout habitat, in southern West Virginia ,” said Moore . “Trout Unlimited is working to restore and protect the last best remaining wild brook trout areas in the state, and it has become increasingly difficult due to this practice. Ending this ruinous method of coal removal would go a long way toward protecting these areas.”
Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with more than 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. In 2009, TU celebrates its 50th anniversary.